We have a jumper. We haven’t called 911 yet, but when we found Martha (one of the big gold Buff Orpingtons) on top of the water jar in the brooding box, we knew the chicks were getting frisky. It’s amazing how fast they’re getting their feathers and learning to stretch their wings. They can all fly/hop/jump from one end of the box to the other if startled, though fortunately they don’t all jump at once. It’s tempting to build a bigger box, but they’ll be ready to go outside in a few weeks. Meanwhile, I do my best to keep the box and their water and food dishes clean. They sure can trash a place—worse than teenagers.
The girls all have names now, thanks to Libby and our friends Eliza Peter and her son James who came to visit weekend before last. Eliza and James brought along the family dog, a golden-colored Labradoodle named Opti, and Libby decided one of the Buff Orpingtons should be named for Opti (far left). The littlest and prettiest bird (and also the friendliest—she loves to sit in Roy’s hand–see top photo) is named Perky, for my mom. Yes, it’s sort of an odd Mother’s Day present, but I thought she’d get a kick out of it as she likes animals. My Mom’s real name is Pauletta, but friends have called her Perky for years. (She is perky—and pretty, too, so it’s only fitting that our beautiful little Sicilian Buttercup be named for her.) Oreo (above right), one of the Barred Rocks, definitely gets our vote for Miss Personality. Every time I try to take a picture inside the box (difficult), she comes right up to the camera. Also, along with Martha and Opti, she heads for high ground whenever possible; these three generally hog the little roost Roy built for the box. The other gals—Jelly Bean, Little Squawker, Sugar (Eliza’s pick, short for Cinnamon Sugar), and Chippy (looks like our resident chipmunk), are camera shy and less adventuresome.
Keeping up with the toddler chicks has been easy compared to the garden work over the past few weeks. We’re still prepping beds, as our soil is full of rocks. If you want to see a humorous illustration of Mars vs. Venus, you can watch Roy and me in the garden using two very different methods to get rocks out of the soil. I basically kneel or bend over and hand-pick them out after turning a patch of soil over with a fork. Roy has built a portable screen that looks sort of like a soccer or hockey goal that he can shovel dirt through and watch the biggest rocks roll away. His method is (somewhat) quicker, but I think mine is more efficient!
One thing I’m crazy about, though, is the simple little screen (far left) Roy made me from hardware cloth and a few boards. I use this to cull out twigs and stones from soil to make a fine mixture to sprinkle over tiny seeds after planting, instead of spending money on a soilless mix. Actually, I’m always excited when I hear the table saw screeching or the compressor hissing in the shop—I never know what Roy is going to come out with, like this recent appearance (at right)—a new gate for the chicken pen.
We also spent the better part of an evening splayed out on the newspaper-covered mudroom floor transplanting all the tomato and basil seedlings out of six-packs and into 4-inch pots. The numbers are not as crazy as last year, but we still have 200 seedlings, all of which need light. So Roy had to reconfigure the seedling shelves (which he built last year with the idea that they’d be easy to break down and reassemble) to accommodate more lights and taller plants. (The extra lights came from Roy’s shop–now he has to do without until Memorial Day!)
The really great news is that everything I planted outside a few weeks ago is coming up. The pea vines are a couple inches high. That’s my crazy teepee trellis at (near)right. I don’t plan to sell peas this year—I just wanted some for us—so I grabbed a corner for them and made this contraption out of our bamboo stock (also saved from last year) and string to keep the birds out and to provide support. My first batch of arugula and radishes are thriving, so I went ahead and popped the PVC pipes in the ground and draped the Remay over them for early flea-beetle protection (photo, far right). My baby bok choy and about 12 different kinds of lettuces have germinated, and we got the onions, the leeks, and the first batch of potatoes planted. I’ve also been working on an area outside the garden where perennial herbs will go.
It’s all very satisfying, and every morning I wake up excitedly, head out to feed Cocoa the bunny, and to check out the garden, too. I especially love a foggy morning like this past Friday. Something terribly romantic about the mist and the green colors fading to grey. (Romance was on my mind, I admit, as I was watching the royal wedding. No, I am not related to Kate Middleton, unfortunately!) I snapped a few pix of the garden and then trotted over to the north side of the property—an area called The Grove which had fish ponds in it years ago and now has hundreds of daffodils waning and lilies of the valley coming on under the maples.
The fish ponds were the purview of Farmer Greene, who built this place. And since we love all things green, we’ve started calling our little operation Green Island Farm. Might be more accurate to call our version a mini-farm at this point, but it’s wonderful to imagine all the different iterations this place has taken over the years—the food that’s been raised and grown and gathered on this piece of land over the last few hundred years, probably beginning with the Wampanoag Indians. We’re still hoping all this digging is going to turn up an arrowhead.